Group resumes sending death-row dogs into Maritimes despite attacks
Organization, which aims to save dogs on death row in the southern United States, adds steps to improve safety
A controversial animal rescue group, Hearts of the North, which tries to save dogs on death row in the southern United States by finding them homes in the Maritimes, has resumed operations.
In late December, the organization said it was pausing to reflect on its operations after allegations came to light surrounding a number of dog bites that injured several people and animals.
"These dogs have been pulled from U.S. shelters/rescues and are currently in foster care here in the Maritimes," reads a Facebook post on the group's page late Tuesday night.
- 'I still have nightmares': Series of bites leads to questions about Hearts of the North dogs
- Group pauses adoptions of death-row dogs to Maritimes after attacks
"Consider adopting one of these; it will save their life and the life of another dog waiting to come north as well."
The first attacks, reported by CBC in late December, involved a woman whose lip needed stitches and another dog that needed surgery.
Soon after, more attacks by these rescue dogs imported from the U.S. came to light. New Brunswick veterinarians also raised concerns that importing dogs from south of the border may enable the spread of the heartworm parasite in New Brunswick.
In the most recent CBC story, a woman said she had to have her finger reattached after a dog she adopted from the organization bit it off.
Posts date back to early January
Posts discussing dogs being moved across borders and around the Maritimes thanks to the group date back to early January, only a few days after CBC published the last of its stories.
Tara Cormier, the head volunteer organizer for Hearts of the North, did not reply to CBC's request for comment Wednesday on whether the organization had added safety precautions.
Even with amazing references if your decompression test doesn't pass satisfactory marking you will not be approved.- Facebook post on Hearts of the North
But a mid-January post on the organization's Facebook group says it has added a "decompression test" to the adoption process. Decompression tests refer to isolated calming time meant to gradually acclimate a dog to a new environment.
"These tests are to be taken seriously," reads the Facebook post, aimed at potential new owners.
"I cannot emphasize enough the fact that even with amazing references if your decompression test doesn't pass satisfactory marking you will not be approved."
In previous interviews, volunteers said attacks were the results of owners not properly decompressing their dogs.
Tracy Gallant, who live in Amherst, N.S., is one of those people.
In an interview in early January, she told CBC she had adopted a dog, Lemonade, in June from the organization.
At one point she pointed at the dog sternly, which is when it bit her.
"And he put a tooth right through my hand," Gallant said.
"He broke skin."
While she initially brushed this incident off, that same dog later attacked her terrier.
"It took two of us to bring it down, to hold the dog down, to get it to stop attacking him," she said.
"It could have easily killed our other dog."
Before she adopted the dog she said she was told by Hearts of the North that Lemonade was people and children friendly.
She already owns a pitbull-Labrador mix dog and has experience training similar dogs.
"When I called the rescue I was told my [other] dog must have provoked it."
- Vets concerned about heartworm brought by foster dogs
- 'He bit my finger off': Questions linger about foster dogs imported into Canada
A move in the right direction
In Saint John, Shawn Justason Carhart, who works with Transporters Without Borders, an organization that also transports dogs around North America, said she doesn't know what a decompression "test" is.
But if Hearts of the North is implementing safety precautions and taking them seriously, she said that is a move in the right direction.
"If they're really doing it ... it's a good start," she said.
"But they still need certified professional people following up."
Decompression should be, at minimum, three weeks long, says Carhart.
Despite being an organization that focuses on transporting, she said after dropping a dog off, Transporters without Borders continues following up on the dog.
"You never, ever just walk away."